Kombucha has been around for yonks, but 2018 was the year it became a household word. In little more than a year, it went from quietly bubbling away in the kitchens of macrobiotic diet enthusiasts to demanding a serious chunk of chiller space in every supermarket–sales of kombucha quadrupled at Countdown supermarkets within the year. So, what’s next?
HEMP SEED EVERYTHING
With the legalisation of hemp seed as food in December last year, they’ll flood the shelves this year. We’ll see everything from cereals, cookies, muesli bars, beverages and protein powders featuring hemp seeds, to whole or hulled hemp seeds. Hemp seeds contain negligible levels of THC and CBD so have no psychoactive properties. The reason they’re so hyped is because they’re little nuclei of nutrients. They’re rich in protein, beneficial fatty acids, fibre, and provide all nine amino acids. Countdown’s Senior Communications Advisor Katherine Klouwens says because of that company’s access to Australian lines (hemp seed has been saleable there for longer), they’ve already got a wide range of products on offer, plus as the New Zealand hemp industry flourishes we’ll see more locally made hemp seed products hit the shelves too.
Say what? Sounds like some kind of whacky boardgame but no, it’s a drink made with apple cider vinegar, traditionally flavoured with ginger. Like kombucha, it’s been around for centuries; it’s thought to have originated in the West Indies in the 1600s and spread to the US where it became known as ‘haymaker’s punch’; basically Gatorade to the 19th Century farmer. Another vinegar-based drink, the shrub, is popping up on cocktail menus around the country, but it’s not necessarily an alcoholic beverage we’ll see shrubs turning up drinks chillers before long. It’s made by flavouring vinegar with fresh fruit then sweetening with sugar–this syrup is then topped up with soda or whatever else you fancy.
Like yoghurt on steroids, kefir is fermented using a starter culture (in this case, lumpy grains) and contains loads of gut-friendly bacteria. Harking from way way back in the Caucasus region, kefir was traditionally made with milk but today we also see versions made with water or coconut water. Countdown currently stocks a thick version akin to pouring yoghurt, but will be introducing kefir beverages this year. The growth of such gut-friendly foods and drinks will continue. As Countdown dietitian Deb Sue says, “Heath and wellness isn’t a trend that will disappear. Everyone wants to be healthier.” Sue says the company watches closely what’s happening overseas and if something shows itself to be more than a passing fad, it’ll earn a spot of the shelves here. Farro Fresh owner Jenene Draper shares that sentiment, saying, “Fads blow in and out quickly but when something really resonates with people, it becomes mainstream”.
The meat of a goat, that is. The Kiwi palate has become familiar with goat’s milk and cheeses made from it, this will be the year that goat meat becomes a more readily-used ingredient. We’re a behind–goat meat is actually the most-consumed meat in the world and stacks up well health-wise. Draper explains that our acceptance of it is a result of us being exposed to more world cuisines–we’ve tasted curries made with goat meat in Indian restaurants or seen it used on cooking shows and want to be able to try our hand with it at home. Butchers with Indian or Middle Eastern heritage have been doing a roaring trade in goat for years but we’ll start to see it going into gourmet stores like Farro and then perhaps more mainstream supermarkets which will be good news for our goat meat industry, who currently don’t have enough demand here and look to export. Not too dissimilar from goat, wild tahr meat has been hanging around the fringes of the culinary scene for a while and will also become more widely recognised.
This highly aromatic citrus fruit, once described to me by chef Makoto Tokuyama as “The smell of Japan” is grown on a very small scale in New Zealand, you might be lucky to find in season (winter) in specialist food stores or you can try your hand at growing it at home. I’m not sure we’ll yet see a big growth in the fresh product as the demand is mostly only from clever chefs and keen cooks of Japanese cuisine, but we’ll see more of yuzu products as people wake up to its zingy flavour. Ponzu, based on yuzu, is vital for dressing tataki and is great on lots of other things, too. Yuzu-infused oil is wonderful–Lot8 make a yuzu-infused extra virgin olive oil. But my favourite yuzu product and the one popping up on more menus is yuzukosho–a paste of yuzu peel, chilli and salt that’s allowed to ferment. Similar to its Moroccan somewhat-counterpart, harissa, yuzukosho an absolute flavour bomb. Most often it’s made with green chillies but sometimes red are used, and I’ve also come across a version that, rather than in paste form, is dried and ground–this tart, hot dynamite is so good sprinkled on just about anything (on a hard boiled egg is my go-to).
We’re well used to seeing it in beauty products, but starting from about now you’ll be greeted by its presence in all sorts of foods and drinks. Following the lead of Asian markets, where collagen has long been at home in the edible aisles, our food retailers are set to be stocking everything from cereals and yoghurts to drinks with added collagen. There’s also collagen to be had in bone broth, which seems to have successfully distanced itself from that less-marketable name “stock” and is continuing to sell well.
You’ve heard of them, sure, but they’ve never quite been cast the health-focused gaze that blueberries have long enjoyed. They’ve been resigned to a supporting role in fruit buns, or alongside the lead actor sugar in juice. But blackcurrants are going to have a berry big year. Some of their apparent benefits are that they’re rich in anthocyanins which are thought to have antioxidant properties, may help with brain health and immunity, and a recent New Zealand indicated that they may improve a healthy person’s exercise performance and recover. New Zealand-grown blackcurrants look to be particularly powerful thanks to our strong sunlight. So we’ll see more locally made blackcurrant innovations hit the shelves–one to look for already is a drink called Ārepa, made from blackcurrants, green tea and pine bark extract, aimed at boosting “Mental clarity”.
By the end of this year the presence of vegan products in the aisles normally dedicated to things made from animals or by animals will be firmly entrenched. Moore points to the variety now on offer in the vegan ‘dairy’ section–you can even buy vegan whipping cream now. And plant-based proteins will become more familiar and more diverse as we see alternatives to meat made with ingredients that mimic it very closely. Having raised an impressive $10 million of capital to take their innovations to overseas markets, New Zealand company Sunfed Meats are also set to launch their Bull Free Burger which, like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, will have that much-talked-about ‘bleeding’ quality. Unlike some other products in the category, Sunfed’s stance is to use natural ingredients. “In the US, the number of people identifying as vegan has increased by 600 per cent in the past three years”, states Draper. Vegan protein products are becoming so prevalent, she says, that “Meat” signs is is now being replaced in some US supermarkets with a more general term, “Protein”.
*This story was originally published in Your Weekend magazine
*Image: Anna’s kitchen – Bali bowl seasoned with yuzukosho